The secretive Tonopah Test Range Airport, located in the northwestern reaches of the Nevada Test and Training Range, the sprawling amalgam of restricted airspace that makes up much of Southern Nevada, usually appears to be a very quiet place in daytime satellite images, but once in a while that calm is broken. This was the case during the week of September 19th. The highly secure installation hosted a number of uncommon aircraft throughout the week in what appeared to be some sort of large test or training event.
Satellite imagery dated September 23rd, 2020 that The War Zone obtained from Planet Labs offers a peek into just how busy the remote installation was during this time period. What are usually empty ramps, aside from a couple ‘Janet’ 737 airliners that shuttle workers to and from the installation and Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport daily, became far more cluttered on that week. A number of uncommon visitors dotted the ramp, as well as a more common one—the base’s resident F-117 Nighthawks. The F-117s spent their formative, classified, years at Tonopah and were retired there in 2008, cocooned five to a hangar. Over the last decade, a handful of them have become remarkably active in the test and aggressor role.